I quite liked the Bajaj Avenger right from the time it was a Kawasaki Eliminator. But then I never rode one. The fear was that a gangly 6 footer (plus) might just not fit on the bike. This stayed until now. Bajaj Auto, called and asked if I will be interested in reviewing the new Bajaj Avenger BS6 range. When I explained to them my apprehensions, they insisted I go and take the bike to a longer route and not just in the confines of the city. To understand the motorcycle better, they also added the smaller Bajaj Avenger Street 160 to the mix. Well, now that’s hard to refuse! Roped in my photographer to ride one of the bikes and off we went to Mumbai’s favourite riding destination – Lonavla. The sweeping turns, the straights, and mainly the near 100km one-way journey were the right recipes for testing the Bajaj Avenger 220 Cruise and Street 160 bikes.
Yes, quite comfortably. In fact, the seat has got to be one of the highlights of this bike. For example, it is almost like a sofa and you comfortably sink in. I didn’t have a sore bum after the near 10-hour shoot. The plan was to have breakfast at Lonavala at RamaKrishna, a popular restaurant, on entering the town. En route we shot for the video as well and the ‘gram. I started the journey with the Avenger 160. While my knees were above the fuel tank, the riding posture was comfortable, the mirrors were usable and the ground clearance (169mm) allowed me to stretch the bike’s legs. Speaking of which, the motorcycle comes with 17-inch front and 15-inch rear wheels, wrapped in MRF rubber.
The switch from 160 to 220 wasn’t as seamless as I thought it will be. The Bajaj Avenger 220 BS6 boasts slightly sweptback handlebars and seems a bit bigger as well, though both the bikes share their dimensions. So, the swap didn’t result in a dramatically different dimension though the experience on both is. One tends to be a bit more relaxed on the 220 whereas the 160 urges you to go a wee bit faster.
If you’ve ridden the Bajaj Pulsar NS160, then the Avenger Street’s motor will make you feel at home. It has the same peppiness and feel. It is quite a tractable engine and is equally at home both on the highway as well as on the street. The gearshifts though feel a bit mechanical yet effortless. In this aspect, the Avenger 220’s gearshift quality is one of the best in the Bajaj range. While the clutch on both the bikes is light, especially in traffic, I didn’t encounter any false neutral. Moreover, clutchless upshifts were met with the same enthusiasm as other sport-oriented bikes from Bajaj.
The Avenger 220’s motor comes off from the Pulsar 220F. The latter was once known as the “World’s Fastest Indian”. However, for use in the Avenger it has been detuned. It makes 19.03hp of power and 17.55Nm of torque. This engine is mated to a 5-speed gearbox. Definitely, this motor is more at home at higher speeds with some left in the reserve for overtakes.
The common point between both the engine is the surprisingly good fuel efficiency. While we were running both the engines near the redline, almost all the time, the fuel economy returned by both were above 45kmpl. Astonishing! I believe the bikes will return better mileage once the engines are properly run-in.
Lots actually. The Avenger 160 gets alloy wheels with tubeless tyres (a boon). It also gets a modest semi-digital instrument console with only the trip meter, odometer readouts. Both the bikes get a secondary meter on the fuel tank and it shows you the battery diagnosis and ABS malfunction indicator. Other changes between both the bikes include a fully digital instrument console, chrome, pillion seatback, higher kerb weight and of course the bigger engine in the 220 Cruise. The digital meter is quite lucid even in broad daylight and while the windshield does vibrate at higher speeds, it is only when you hit a pothole or an uneven road. At higher speeds or in city traffic, the mirrors, unlike the ones on the Street, are useless as one cannot adjust them much and they only seem to show you the pillion’s legs.
There are next to no vibrations for the rider at usable speeds on both bikes. The engine refinement is very good. The pillion though has to contend with footpeg vibrations. Anyone sitting pillion on the Cruise will be a bit more comfortable due to the backrest. As for folks like me on the rider’s perch, the Avengers boast the best ride quality due to their soft suspension tuning. This being said, more than 300km at a stretch means I might have to contend with a slightly tired lower back.
Handling-wise in the city the motorcycles, contrary to my belief, proved to be quite nimble. Even u-turns because of the handlebar leverage are quite easy. Give it a winding road and the Cruise definitely seems more at home while surprisingly the Street took a bit more effort to tip. Footpeg clearance is decent on both the bikes though on account of overenthusiasm for the pictures, I did manage to grind the pegs a couple of times.
The ‘Feel Like God’ tagline definitely wasn’t made up. It is real and for one to experience themselves.
Modern-day machines tend to be reliable barring few manufacturers that still pursue ancient production methods. With the Avenger 220 Cruise, it was noticed that after a couple of hard runs, the right side rear indicator screw had worked itself loose. Now, we tried fixing it with bare hands but without the availability of a torque wrench, the indicator just wouldn’t stay put. There was also the curious case of the battery side panel falling off the bike even though it was properly locked. I guess, these issues could have been sorted at the pre-delivery inspection stage. As for the 160, it worked like clockwork with impressive build quality.
Assumptions! Well, a ride and a decently long one cleared all doubts. The Avengers can be used by one and all. It’s very rare for a manufacturer to ensure one size fits all and Bajaj have done it. At Rs 1.24 lakh for the Cruise and Rs 1.03 lakh, ex-Delhi for the Street, these aren’t exactly the bargain that they were before BS6 norms came in. But, when you consider that there are no other cruisers (an opportunity for other bike makers) in this range barring the Suzuki Intruder, you will likely buy the Avengers.
But if I were to buy the Cruise, I will immediately switch to alloys and tubeless tyres. I will also add aux lights though the stock halogens are decent but not awesome. Better adjustable mirrors too will on the list. That’s all the changes I will make. My assumption is Bajaj too will. In the next update.
Photography: Donald Dsouza
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